• Pandemic During the Song Dynasty: Prevalence and Prevention, Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2015.
  • Update Time: 2015-06-05

  Author:Han Yi

  A plague is a kind of diseases, which occurs rapidly and has strong infectious, destructive force and pandemic features, its form usually causes by abnormal climate and human activity. Song Dynasty had occurred strong infectious plagues about 293 times, including typhoid fever, seasonal disease, Tianxing plague, typhus fever, dysentery, smallpox, leprosy, measles, epidemic parotitis, ancylostomiasis, pestilence, tuberculosis, animal epidemics and so on, which are known as plagues. Plagues seriously endanger human life and health, which not only lead to the death, migration and mobility of population and social unrest, but also restrict the development of the social economy and have serious effect on regional social structure, population growth, military war and even national ruling order. Since the prevention and cure of plagues is a ruling ideology concerning national political stability and compassionate, it has become a long-term focus in Song Dynasty, and Song Emperors, government officials, medical scientists and social public pay high attention to it.

  In Chinese history, Song Dynasty is a period that plagues occur frequently, but also a period that the national government and the social forces positively rescue and achieve remarkable results. Song Dynasty establishes a disease response system which is based on national government lead and aided by social forces. It not only regards plauges as the primary of four big disasters, but also establishes a principle: disease anti infection and disease prevention. Mortality and the painful lessons caused by plagues oblige the Song state and society to set up effective disease prevention and cure system, to improve medical theory, to research various disease prevention drugs and to improve sanitary conditions and living environment, which will link the government, medical person, social public, religious people and so on together closely.

  Song government is the core force dealing with plagues, and in the disease prevention and cure system it plays roles as policy makers, organizational executor and supervisor. Main measures are: first, put the prevention and cure of plagues to the status of national strategy, and not only pay attention to usual prevention, but also take actively rescue measures during plague periods. Second, in medicine aspect, let the Imperial Medical Officer Academy send doctors to plague areas, order the Imperial Medical Officer Academy and the Imperial Medical Bureau and other department research various disease prevention drugs, regularly provide all level officials, military barracks, riverbank areas, schools and other place with summer medicine, winter medicine, malaria medicine, tea medicine and epidemic medicine, compile all kinds of medical books and apply them to cure plagues, pay attention to bury the bodies in order to block the source of infection, set up temporary isolate areas. Third, in economic aspect, provide food, certificate of monk and nun, money and porridge to help refugees get out of difficulty, etc. Fourth, in political aspect, issue edicts for penitence, send officials to sacrifice and appease refugees, etc. Fifth, in social life aspect, fight against witchcraft, disseminate medical knowledge, guide and intervene in the behavior of ordinary people and persuade people "choose medicine according to disease", " cure disease according to medical prescription". Song local officials is the grassroots strength when government deals with plagues, which in addition to carry out prevention measures of the court, but also is responsible for reporting plague information, takes initial prevention and cure measures, dispatches county medical officers to treat, distributes medicines and food and fights against witchcraft and so on. The effective implementation of these measures not only controls the spread of plagues, but also promotes the Confucian "benevolent policy" and greatly expands the functions of ancient country.

  In Song Dynasty, social forces, including folk medical scientist, religious people, local squire, ordinary public and so on, play a complementary role in disease prevention and cure system and make up for the weak areas of the official treatment. They locate in the countryside and live in plague areas, so they often take the initial treatment of plagues before officials arriving. Especially in the dynasty subrogation and the war years, social forces play a certain significant role in some areas. Folk medical scientists are the backbone dealing with plagues in Song Dynasty. On the one hand, they go to disaster areas to cure patients themselves, issue drugs, announce medical prescriptions and disseminate official medical knowledge. On the other hand, they gather experiment, write books, carefully choose famous prescriptions and simplify official medical prescriptions to make medical prescriptions widely be used in clinical treatment. The local squire, monks and Taoist and so on also take positive measures for prevention and cure of plagues, like issuing drugs, provide porridge and food, donate money, bury bodies, pray to drive plagues and worship the god and so on. Compared with the past, the society of Song Dynasty has generally recognized that medical knowledge is the basic and key factor of the prevention and cure of plagues. Local clan, individual and medical scientists attach great importance to the application of drugs.

  In Song Dynasty, recognition, response and prevention measures of different social stratum about plagues promote the development of infectious disease of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), etiology and pathogenesis of TCM, clinical prescription of TCM, military medicine and veterinary of TCM. Song Dynasty has significant features about dealing with plagues: pay great attention to collect and report plague information, establish medical institutions and participate in plagues, interpret and apply the etiology and pathogenesis, sort out and publish new medical books, research and manufacture prevention drugs, isolate and cure patients, bury and fire bodies, pay attention to city environmental hygiene and protect water resource and so on, which greatly enrich the content of infectious disease of TCM, and occupy an important position in the prevention and cure of plagues in the history of ancient China.

This book guided by the doctrine of Marx, according to the research theory and method of infectious diseases of TCM and social history of medicine, focuses on plague situation, geographical distribution, etiology and pathogenesis, preventive measures of different social strata in Song Dynasty, in order to reveal the important role that government, medical scientists and social public play in the system of prevention and cure. Research shows: the system of prevention and cure which is based on a government-led and social forces aided has strong vitality; different social strata, especially the state, play a significant force in plague treatments; TCM plays a important role in the prevention and cure of plagues This research is not only beneficial to broaden academic horizons in the field of Chinese disease history, and extends the research of disease history to the entire field of social history and cultural history, but also helps us to re-examine some problem, like nation and medicine, tradition and modern, and provides useful lessons on how to recognize, face and deal with modern plagues, so it has important academic significance and strong practical reference.